Douglas Borough Council, which delivers the Henry Bloom Noble Library service, has responded to the findings of the Tynwald Select Committee on Library Provision.
Ahead of the report being received by the June sitting of Tynwald, the Council issued a letter to all Members of Tynwald in a move to provide more robust information to support their deliberations on the report, findings from which question the value for money the library offers to Douglas ratepayers.
Outcomes from the survey of the Island’s public libraries, which informed the report, highlight the library’s costs as ‘total’, including central support service recharges management salary allocation and rental costs for the premises. The Council’s letter points out that a review by its officers of costs included for the other libraries in the Island revealed that few, if any, of these costs would be accounted for.
Regeneration and Community Committee Chair Councillor Stephen Pitts said: ‘It is important that the Council set the record straight and put the report’s findings into context.
‘Critically, the study looked at what was not a typical year for the Henry Bloom Noble Library, 2016-2017, the year the library relocated to Duke Street from Victoria Street. The move was to provide an enhanced range of amenities and more central location for the library’s growing number of customers. This meant that the costs incurred - many of which were “one off” - were not representative of the true costs of providing the service.
‘I would add that the relocation has not only delivered an improved library service but has also reinvigorated a landmark site at a gateway to the town centre Douglas that had previously lain empty for a number of years. Importantly, as a result of moving to Duke Street, the Council has secured ongoing annual revenue savings of £140,000, thereby reducing the impact on the rate.
‘Had all the indirect and one-off extra costs been excluded from the 2016-2017 running costs, the cost to deliver the service would have equated to £9.33 per head for those with free access to the service and not the figure of £14.80 as quoted in the Select Committee’s report.
‘The Council feels that while the report has its merits and provides an opportunity to examine the valuable role libraries have to play in the 21st century, the survey on which it is based does not compare like with like, notably in matters of funding mechanisms.
‘There are those who would claim that libraries have limited or no place in the digital age. Douglas Borough Council, however, firmly believes that the Henry Bloom Noble Library is a valuable community asset, not only for Douglas but for the whole Island.
‘The Council recognises that while the library’s core role is to support literacy and the acquisition of knowledge, the way in which it fulfils that role is changing dramatically. This represents a challenge to which Borough Librarian Jan Macartney and her team - who are all passionate about making the library as accessible to as wide an audience as possible – are successfully responding with enthusiasm and imagination.
‘The Henry Bloom Noble Library is an engaging and bright space. It offers children themed educational and activity sessions throughout the year, provides a study area and IT suite which is well used year round and hosts a wide range of events for all generations; it has even served as the setting for a wedding.
‘In addition, the library’s website, with its extensive selection of e-books and e-magazines, has been recently updated so that customers can join online, while its lively and informative Facebook page attracts a loyal and growing following.
In short, the Henry Bloom Noble Library is stepping up to the digital challenge, giving customers a wider choice in how they access its services and providing empowering learning opportunities for the whole community. Against this background the Council would assert that the Henry Bloom Noble Library does, indeed, offer Douglas ratepayers good value for money.’